Tag Archives: MFT

Policy teach-in at the Common Ground Country Fair

On Saturday, September 22nd, MFT’s Policy and Research Director, Ellen Stern Griswold, participated in a policy teach-in at the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA)’s Common Ground Country Fair. The policy roundtable, which MFT co-sponsored with MFOGA, focused on the policy changes needed to better support agriculture in Maine and to grow the agricultural economy.

During the roundtable, Ellen discussed the process that has been underway for the last year to create an Initial Agriculture Policy Platform, as well as the outreach effort that is being planned to farmers and other agriculture stakeholders to get feedback on the Platform and to refine the document before sharing it with the next state administration. This outreach effort will include facilitated in-person meetings across the state, webinars, and online and paper surveys.

Other roundtable participants included Penny Jordan of Jordan’s Farm in Cape Elizabeth and President of the Maine Farm Bureau, who discussed the policy changes that are needed to enhance farmer profitability; Ben Whalen, co-owner of Bumbleroot Organic Farm in Windham and a member of the Southern Maine Young Farmers Coalition, who discussed the challenges and opportunities facing the next generation of farmers in Maine; and Jim Gerritsen of Wood Prairie Family Farm in Bridgewater and President of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, who discussed the federal policy changes that are needed to better support family farmers in Maine. Heather Spalding, MOFGA’s Deputy Director, moderated the discussion.

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As dairy farms struggle, organizations and farmers collaborate to find alternate solutions through new feasibility study

At a time when dairy farmers in Maine and across the country are facing numerous challenges affecting the milk market and resulting in low prices to producers, multiple Maine organizations have joined with Maine organic dairy farmers to investigate alternative market opportunities. A Local Foods & Farmers Market Promotion Program (LFPP) grant from the USDA was recently awarded to MFT, written in collaboration with the Maine Organic Milk Producers, Maine Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association, Coastal Enterprises, Inc., and the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, to execute a feasibility study to determine whether in-state processing could enable better market stability for organic dairy farmers. This successful proposal was also bolstered by support from the Maine Dairy Industry Association, Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, Maine Farm Bureau, Wolfe’s Neck Center for Agriculture and the Environment, and the Congressional offices of Sen. Collins, Sen. King, Rep. Poliquin, and Rep. Pingree.

“Dairy farms play a keystone role in Maine’s farm and food economy,” said Amanda Beal, President and CEO of Maine Farmland Trust. “This feasibility study has the potential to benefit all dairy farms in Maine, as losing even one dairy farm can have a sizable impact on the agricultural sector and economy, and we know that having multiple market options increases the resiliency of these farm businesses.”

Milk produced by the dairy sector represents Maine’s second most valuable agricultural product; sales value reached nearly $125 million in 2017. All of Maine’s dairy farmers face challenges due to existing political and market forces, which MFT and other partner organizations actively work to address on an ongoing basis through state and federal policy.

However, certified organic farms, which account for nearly one-third of Maine’s dairy farms, face additional challenges as Maine lacks in-state processing infrastructure for their milk.  While the organic market was once relatively resistant to the fluctuating price, supply, and sales of milk and milk products, this is no longer the case.  Adding to the unease for organic producers is the fact that all bulk organic milk produced in Maine is shipped out of state for processing.  This creates a dependence on processors operating in the national milk market, who can get milk elsewhere. This dynamic recently resulted in several organic farmers losing their contracts with an out-of-state processor.

The feasibility study will examine the current needs of Maine organic dairy farms, estimate market-size for in-state processing infrastructure, evaluate various business models and run financial analysis to determine the viability of business models. The study will draw from the experience of MOOMilk, an in-state organic processor that closed in 2014. While many factors contributed to MOOMilk’s closing, the processor’s sales showed strong consumer support for a Maine organic dairy brand.

“Exploring the idea of in-state processing is so exciting for those of us currently in the organic dairy industry,” said Annie Watson, co-owner and farmer at Sheepscot Valley Farm in Whitefield. “This is an opportunity to take an in-depth look at the current landscape of Maine organic dairy. If there is a market for our product on its own label, or in conjunction with a larger processor, we owe it to the future of dairy in our state to seriously consider the possibilities.”

Due to the urgency of the current dairy crisis, partnering organizations plan to finish the study within six to seven months, in hopes to inform some near-term action to expand in-state processing opportunities for our dairy farms.

Forever Farm Party at Romac Orchard & Goat Hill

Wednesday, Spetember 12th

4-7PM

Romac Orchard & Goat Hill was protected last summer through a collaboration between MFT, Three Rivers Land Trust, and the Town of Acton The orchards have produced apples for the wholesale market for 80 years, and the hilltop has long been a cherished destination for year-round and seasonal residents of the region.

Come celebrate farmland protection and community collaboration in Acton.

Music will be preformed by Darlin’ Corey, a duo made up of Erica Brown and Matt Shipman, who feature a blend of vocal harmonies accompanied by fiddle, banjo, mandolin and guitar.

Food will include sausages from Misty Brook Farm in Albion and cider from Far From the Tree Cider. Romac Orchard will offer special deals on bags of fresh apples for guests to purchase throughout the evening.

Free & All are Welcome!

Agrarian Acts 2018

Join us for our 3rd annual celebration of agriculture through music!

Doors at 3:30/Music 4-7pm ish

BUY TICKETS HERE.

An evening of music in the fields at the Fiore Art Center at Rolling Acres Farm in Jefferson. This year’s line-up features three all-female bands with deep roots in rural Maine:

Ticket includes

Farm pizza & salad made by Uproot Pie Co.

Cash bar with beer & wine

Bring your own blankets and chairs

 

Kids under 5 FREE

Kids 6-15 $15

Adults $35

 

BUY TICKETS HERE. Online ticket sales will close at 3pm on Friday, August 24th. Tickets will be available at the door beginning at 3:15 on the day of and at Open Studio Day from noon-3pm that afternoon.

July Open Studio Day at the Fiore Art Center

Every summer the Joseph A. Fiore Art Center hosts artists-in-residence for the months of July, August and September. At the end of each month, the artists open up their studios to the public. On July 29th, the first Open Studio Day of the summer took place. It was an absolutely gorgeous day in Jefferson and more than 75 people attended.

Thu Vu, the international resident from Vietnam, had a studio full of ink drawings on rice paper for installation commissions in Vietnam. She also shared some of the food-related paper sculptures she had been working on throughout the month, inspired by her time in the kitchen with fellow residents and all the fresh veggies grown by the resident gardener.

Maxwell Nolin, shared some of his portraits and sketches with guests and discussed his previous life as a farmer in midcoast Maine. One portrait which continuously piqued the attention of visitors was that of farmer, friend and mentor Polly Shyka (Villageside Farm, Freedom). During his residency, Nolin worked on a large portrait of his grandfather, as well as a self portrait.

Jodi Paloni, who spent the residency completing her first novel, held several readings in the living room throughout the afternoon. During one reading, Paloni shared how some characters were influenced by the people and experiences at the Fiore Art Center, and read some excerpts from her novel; for the second reading, she read one of her lyric essays –a process of weekly reflection –  which can be read here.

Resident gardener Rachel Alexandrou led three garden tours with  light question and answer sessions about the interesting vegetable varieties she has been growing for the residents, including crimson clover, a unique and stunning cover crop, and dark purple tomatoes (Brad’s Atomic Grape Tomato from Baker Creek Seeds).

The next Open Studio Day will be held on Sunday, August 26th from noon-3pm. Later that day, the Art Center will also be hosting MFT’s third annual Agrarian Acts, a celebration of art through music. This year’s lineup features Syblline, Sugarbush, and Sara Trunzo. The Open Studio Day is free; buy your tickets for Agrarian Acts HERE.

Thu Vu

Max Nolin

Jodi Paloni

Rachel Alexandrou

Summer Garden Party & BBQ

Please join neighbors, friends, and staff of MFT for a casual & informative evening of food, conversation and community in Freedom.  Learn more about what MFT is up to locally, and statewide, to ensure farming will continue to feed Maine for generations to come.
We’ll have plenty of meat and veggies on the grill and a big green salad (all from local farms).  Please feel free to bring a side dish, dessert, or drinks to add to the mix!
Families welcome, no dogs please.
To RSVP or for more information, call or email Caroline (207-338-6575; caroline@mainefarmlandtrust.org)

Maine nutrition incentive programs get a big boost from large federal grant award

Innovative “nutrition incentive” programs that get more local, healthy food to low-income Mainers while growing the customer base for Maine farms have received federal funding through a large, multi-state grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Last week the USDA announced over $4 million in funding for the regional proposal, led by Farm Fresh Rhode Island and including two Maine organizations: MFT and Maine Federation of Farmers’ Markets. The award is the largest grant allocated in this grant cycle. The grant will help fund nutrition incentive programs in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, and Rhode Island for the next four years.

“We’re really glad to be part of this collaborative effort to increase access to healthy food and support farmers across New England,” says Shannon Grimes, Nutrition Incentive Project Manager at MFT. “Having this grant provides important stability to help us expand our programs even more over the next few years.”

Nutrition incentive programs offer vouchers for low-income shoppers who use SNAP/EBT (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps) when they purchase local food. The vouchers can be redeemed to purchase more locally-grown fruits and vegetables. Nutrition incentives are a win-win-win: Families who use SNAP benefits are able to access more local, healthful food; Maine farmers gain new customers; and more food dollars stay in the local economy.

In Maine, there are two types of nutrition incentive programs: Maine Harvest Bucks, which is offered at farmers’ markets, CSA’s, and farm stands through Maine Federation of Farmers’ Markets (MFFM), and Farm Fresh Rewards, offered in local stores and administered by MFT.

Maine Harvest Bucks is available at 60 sites across the state. MFFM partners with Saint Mary’s Nutrition Center, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, and Cultivating Community to implement Maine Harvest Bucks at various direct-to-consumer markets throughout the state. Since 2015, Maine Harvest Bucks has provided more than $250,000 in local fruits and vegetables to shoppers using SNAP. When SNAP benefits are factored in, Maine shoppers have purchased more than $600,00 from local farms in the past 3 years through the Maine Harvest Bucks program.

In 2015, MFT began a project to expand nutrition incentives to stores selling local food. Farm Fresh Rewards has also proved successful: 69% of responding customers report buying more fruits and vegetables as a result of the program, over half (56%) reported a health benefit, and more than two-thirds (69%) noted that they “feel more connected with farmers and other food producers.” Customers are buying more local food, supporting the more than 300 farmers who sell products to participating stores. MFT looks forward to growing these successes with renewed funding. Farm Fresh Rewards is also supported by Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare Foundation in Southern Maine.

In total, these two nutrition incentive programs have helped increase sales for over 1,000 farmers and producers, with more than $700,000 in SNAP and nutrition incentive sales since 2015.

“After three years of development, we are excited to see our program continue to grow with the support of the FINI grant” says Jimmy DeBiasi, the SNAP Program Coordinator at MFFM. “We’re looking forward to continuing to work with the Department of Health and Maine SNAP-Ed, whose support has been critical, as we test new outreach strategies, launch a farm stand pilot, and expand our impact among farmers and shoppers using SNAP.”

For more information about Maine Farmland Trust’s Farm Fresh Rewards program, contact Shannon Grimes, shannon@mainefarmlandtrust.org or 207-338-6575.

For more information about the Maine Federation of Farmers’ Markets’ Maine Harvest Bucks program, contact Jimmy DeBiasi, SNAP@mffm.org or 207-487-7114.

Let's grow a bright future for farming in Maine, together.

Hear the Stories from Maine Fare: Finale Feast & Storytelling

Maine Fare is a month-long series of hands-on field trips and workshops throughout the month of June, that culminated into a unique finale feast on June 30th. This year MFT held Maine Fare in the western foothills region; all events reflected the region’s unique food culture. The culmination event was a tasting and storytelling event held at Stoneheart Farms in South Paris.

Let's grow a bright future for farming in Maine, together.

Rain Begins the Day by Jodi Paloni

Jodi Paloni was the literary resident at the Joseph A. Fiore Art Center throughout the month of July, into August. She worked on completing a novel and also wrote weekly reflections on her time at the residency.

 

Big rains have come. They fall in sheet-like vertical lines that cross the field following paths rendered by wind. Tree branches undulate, gentling the picture, and then suddenly the wind is given to change, leaves turned inside out. Leaves on the maples that flank the yard, liaisons between domesticity and all the wilding beyond the fence­–––five gentle turkey hens, a hawk swooping its prey, coyote kits yipping in the night, and even the gardener wearing her straw hat who wades through the field, brushing palms over the surface of hay grasses and wildflowers as if giving a blessing or taking one, even she becomes the wild of the field. Beyond all of that, the dead continue to sleep among weasels slinking the rock wall, loons chorus their lament, and above, as always, there’s the sky, today, a dirty white.

On the desk, a manuscript in paper, completed, while incomplete, soaks up the damp, when yesterday, pages quivered and flapped in breezes that skimmed across them. The writer allows her characters to rest, to settle into their narrative, reliving their matrices of push and complacency, which is a kind of push, too. She’ll let them examine their agency, see what fits, what is fitting, what squeezes them or lays them out bare beyond the reader’s capacity, but she’ll not let them rest for too long. Time, which was once a playmate, has shifted and now bullies the house, which is only to say how cherished this house has been, and these trees and the field, the cerulean ribbon of lake in the distance.

The middle fruits come in steadily like the end days of July–––string beans of chromium oxide and indigo, cadmium summer squash, and tomatoes with medium violet skins and terre verte flesh. The last lettuces taste sharp in the mouth. The house knows what all this means, but doesn’t speak it, until it does speak it, and turns suddenly as sour as the rough and bitter leaves. Thoughts run ahead to crisper airs and tubers–––carrots, beets, potatoes–––and among these thoughts there’s a stew. The house struggles to find peace while pushed and pulled by roots and shoots timetables, June weeds turned to seed, and planet energies, mercurial. The Internet is slow. Glue turns paper soft. It’s a good day for problem-solving the humidity, for private query, for the felt sense brush stroking of a self-portrait.

Yesterday, residents traveled a near road or two to the archives of the painter this place is named for and viewed more of the tangibles made manifest by his hand, as far as any one person’s eye can turn sight into vision and ask the consumer to see all that was felt or at least to try. Some are moved by the clatter of narrative and color, others by the peace they might take from a line reminiscent of a relatable figure. All are moved by a collection of stones arranged in an old printers box set on the table under the sky light, a scrim of barn dust and splinter of hay making it holy. It’s an artifact, a childlike thing, like this summer month of days with few boundaries, where the inner wilding as been allowed a sliver moon howl swelling towards eclipse. There’s nothing as sacred as emptiness in the quiet after a howl. There’s nothing as sacred as paying attention to what makes us and to what we make.

Here’s one thing the writer now knows for certain, what she has always suspected. Process isn’t solely for the artist; it’s for embedding process into the physical plane–––the canvas, the rice paper, the vellum, the page, the clear glass jars of liquid plant pigment on the pantry shelf–––for what travels over time and through space are the material vestiges of process impermanence.

Take heart, the writer will say to herself and the others, a departure looming.

The field has witnessed your arrival. It has allowed you, has taken you in, as it also swallows the rain, lifts up the birdsong afterwards.

Take heart. You have become immune to describable form, but your having resided here will be held within the forever of this field.

 

 

Jodi Paloni, July 2018

Bike with MFT!

Sunday, July 22nd @11am in Bowdoinham

Join MFT for a farm-to-farm bike ride around Bowdoinham!  We’ll visit a variety of protected farms, hear from the farmers, and learn more about what it means to be a Forever Farm.  More info below!

Merrymeeting Trailblazers and MFT are sponsoring the Explore Merrymeeting Bay Bike Tours, visiting the farms and exploring the scenes of Open Farm Day. The ride will include three led bike ride options for a range of abilities and interests. All three led rides will leave from Mailly Waterfront Park.  Representatives from Merrymeeting Wheelers, MFT, and Kennebec Estuary Land Trust will be supporting the rides.

9:30am 24-mile ride through Bowdoinham and Richmond with stops to explore farms along the way. This is a good ride for beginner or intermediate riders.

10:00am 35-mile ride through Bowdoinham, Richmond, and Topsham with short stops at farms on the route. This ride is best for intermediate or advanced riders.

11:00am 14-mile ride with stops to explore some of Bowdoinham’s Forever Farms. This ride will be led by MFT staff and is good for beginner & intermediate riders and those who are interested in learning more about farmland protection in one of the richest farming areas in Bowdoinham.

RSVP: caroline@mainefarmlandtrust.org or 338-6575